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No 'signs of life' after huge Washington landslide

No 'Signs of Life' After Washington Landslide

ARLINGTON, Wash. (AP) -- Hopes of finding any more survivors from a massive mudslide that killed at least eight people waned as searchers pulled more bodies from the tangled debris field and crews worked through the night into Monday in rural Washington state.

Search and rescue teams took to the air in helicopters and the ground on foot on Sunday looking for anyone who might still be alive. Their spirits had been raised late Saturday night when they heard voices calling for help from the flotsam of trees, dirt and wreckage. Dangerous conditions forced them to turn back in the darkness, but they resumed their work at first light Sunday.

"We didn't see or hear any signs of life out there today," Snohomish County Fire District 21 Chief Travis Hots said. "It's very disappointing to all emergency responders on scene."

Snohomish County sheriff's Lt. Rob Palmer said four more bodies were discovered late Sunday. Earlier in the day, authorities said one body had been found on the debris field. Three people were already confirmed dead on Saturday.

More people remained missing, and authorities said the number was "fluid." Earlier Sunday, they said it was at least 18, but that count came before additional bodies were discovered.

The 1-square-mile slide also critically injured several people - including an infant - and destroyed about 30 homes.

Crews were able to get to the soupy, tree-strewn area that was 15-feet deep in places Sunday after geologists flew over in a helicopter and determined it was safe enough for emergency responders and technical rescue personnel to search for possible survivors, Hots said

He added that they did not search the entire debris field, only drier areas safe to traverse. Hots said crews were still in a "search and rescue mode. It has not gone to a recovery mode at this time."

Searchers planned to continue looking through the night.

Before crews could get onto the debris field late Sunday morning, they looked for people by helicopter. They had late Saturday heard people yelling for help, but they were unable to reach anyone. The soupy mud was so thick and deep that searchers had to turn back.

"We have this huge square-mile mudflow that's basically like quicksand," Hots said Sunday.

The slide wiped through what neighbors described as a former fishing village of small homes - some nearly 100 years old.

As the search for the missing continued, authorities said some may have been able to get out on their own. The number unaccounted for could change because some people may have been in cars and on roads when the slide hit just before 11 a.m. Saturday.

Officials described the mudslide as "a big wall of mud and debris." It blocked about a mile of State Route 530 near the town of Oso, about 55 miles north of Seattle. It was reported to be about 15 feet deep in some areas.

Authorities believe the slide was caused by ground made unstable by recent heavy rainfall.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee described the scene as "a square mile of total devastation" after flying over the disaster area midday Sunday. He assured families that everything was being done to find their missing loved ones.

The slide blocked the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River. With the water pooling behind the debris, authorities worried about downstream flooding and issued an evacuation notice Saturday. The water had begun to seep through the blockage Sunday afternoon, alleviating some concerns.

Snohomish County officials said Sunday that residents could return home during daylight hours. Even though the evacuation had been lifted, Inslee urged residents to remain alert.

The National Weather Service issued a flash flood watch for Snohomish County through Monday afternoon.

Shari Ireton, a spokeswoman for the Snohomish County sheriff's office, said Sunday that a total of eight people were injured in the slide.

A 6-month-old boy and an 81-year-old man remained in critical condition Sunday morning at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle. Hospital spokeswoman Susan Gregg said two men, ages 37 and 58, were in serious condition, while a 25-year-old woman was upgraded to satisfactory condition.

Bruce Blacker, who lives just west of the slide, doesn't know the whereabouts of six neighbors.

"It's a very close knit community," Blacker said as he waited at an Arlington roadblock before troopers let him through.

Search-and-rescue help came from around the region, including the Washington State Patrol and the Army Corps of Engineers. More than 100 were at the scene.

Dane Williams, 30, who lives a few miles from the mudslide, spent Saturday night at a Red Cross shelter at the Arlington school.

He said he saw a few "pretty distraught" people at the shelter who didn't know the fate of loved ones who live in the stricken area.

"It makes me want to cry," Williams said.

Hots said searchers would continue their efforts through the difficult debris field.

"There may be people in their cars, there may be people in houses," he said.

Join the discussion

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duane March 24 2014 at 6:48 AM

bless there souls

Flag Reply +12 rate up
k9korral March 24 2014 at 11:16 AM

For those posters wondering why people were allowed to build at the bottom of this slope, keep in mind the homes were on the other side of a river and a highway away from the base of the hill. Many of the homes were more than 100 years and still standing prior to this slide.
If you question building in this area, you are more likely to suffer an earthquake in CA, so why build there. How about wildfires, everything from Montana to Texas just east of Rockies is more likely to burn. You stand a better chance of blowing away in Tornado alley. How much damage do hurricanes do? This areas idea of blizzard is 3", considerably less than what the upper Midwest and Northeast is expecting today. This was caused by rainfall totals 3 times normal this month (over a foot since March 1st.)

Please get off your high horse and get down on a knee for the victims, the survivors, and rescue personnel trying to help.

Flag Reply +12 rate up
janka51 March 24 2014 at 11:02 AM

who can see anything for the stupid ads

Flag Reply +2 rate up
1 reply
deborahcatlett janka51 March 24 2014 at 12:03 PM

A friend just helped me this morning with that issue.... ADBLOCK, it's an extension that you can download for free through Google. So far, NO pop ups! YAY!

Flag Reply 0 rate up
Ellen March 24 2014 at 10:44 AM

My heart goes out to those who were caught inmudslide in Wa also for those whose their lives in airplane

ope n pray they do find plane

Flag Reply +4 rate up
2 replies
Nancy Ellen March 24 2014 at 11:09 AM

What? Proof what you write so you make sense.

Flag Reply +2 rate up
4 replies
HIEP HOI NAILS Ellen March 24 2014 at 11:41 AM

Your heart is pure and generous !

Flag Reply +2 rate up
DenaliMan March 24 2014 at 10:39 AM

"The slide wiped through what neighbors described as a former fishing village of small homes - some nearly 100 years old."

That is a direct quote from this article. To those idiots who have commented about the stupidity of building in the area....it doesn't seem that it has been an area of high devastation in a century. Perhaps people shouldn't build in Seattle, San Francisco or Anchorage. They have ALL had devastating earthquakes within the last 50 years. Think of the tax dollars you could have saved. Read and think.

Flag Reply +6 rate up
2 replies
tdiplaci DenaliMan March 24 2014 at 10:42 AM

You have to realize that the gene pool that some of the posters have spawned from are from a pretty low level. You can't expect any sensible comments from people who have only a few operating brain cells.

Flag Reply +8 rate up
TORMODKOT CATS DenaliMan March 24 2014 at 10:51 AM

You've had too many cocktails! Many of the houses have BEEN THERE FOR 100 YEARS. It is an OLD, little town...Who is the idot now?

Flag Reply +1 rate up
2 replies
Nancy TORMODKOT CATS March 24 2014 at 11:11 AM

What's an "idot"? Before you call people names, learn to spell so you don't look like an "idot" yourself.

Flag +3 rate up

A little town ? 100 years houses ? Old ? But this is our heritage must be reserved ! This is a history with pride too !

Flag 0 rate up
Tom March 24 2014 at 10:37 AM

Taken from the article:

"Authorities believe the slide was caused by ground made unstable by recent heavy rainfall."
I can't help but wonder if cutting down trees in that particular area has anything to do with this tragic disaster. Trees are natural anchors for soil and soak up hundreds of thousands of gallons of water. While I hope that is not the case, I cannot help but wonder if it isn't a contributing factor.

Hopefully there will be more survivors but in the meantime prayers and positive thoughts go out to everyone concerned.

Flag Reply +4 rate up
MARIE March 24 2014 at 10:31 AM

Our thoughts and prayers are with you and your loved ones.

Flag Reply +7 rate up
Frances March 24 2014 at 10:17 AM

So sad for the families...let us all pray, pray and pray some more. Send the positive energy out there.

Flag Reply +10 rate up
Patt March 24 2014 at 9:23 AM

That Would be so hard to not keep looking when you hear people out there crying for help, it would have been some ones loved one, how do you stop? That would be worse on some one knowing you cant go back in looking ,when there crying for help , Wow.. my thoughts and prayers go out to all the familes involved, and to all the rescue crew.

Flag Reply +22 rate up
rlmcanoe March 24 2014 at 7:16 AM

how horrible to hear the voices and can not do anything because of the darkness. Hope they find more people alive.

Flag Reply +26 rate up
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